Having worked in restaurants, convenient stores and large grocery supermarkets my entire career I have realized that the complexity of the business has always been the leading cause of injuries in any of these organizations.
Let me explain that statement…
1. Multiple Competing Priorities
On any given day there are multiple competing priorities that the manager and all of his/her employees must deal with: customer service, employee scheduling, cleaning and stocking, order taking and food preparation. Vendors are delivering a variety of products and services alongside dealing with maintenance and repair. Not to mention, inspectors, regional managers, prospective applicants, even family and friends come by the restaurant to visit.
Not only is there the chaos of the restaurant, but there is the complexity of managing the allowable labor hours and the wage rates. A crew of long tenured employees may make it nearly impossible to remain at or below the acceptable labor standard.
Accuracy is also crucial to all the moving parts of a restaurant. The counting of inventory, ordering food and supplies, handling cash and banking, all need to be done with great accuracy. All the while handling hundreds of transactions a day with customers, preparing customers’ food orders needs to be done with 100% accuracy.
Or, my favorite pet peeve, going into the restaurant only to find out they are out of the product I wish to purchase. But as we know, food cost is the biggest expense we typically have so if you can’t get that right your career could be over before it ever gets started.
Doesn’t every restaurant operator have a scorecard these days? And, isn’t that scorecard compared with every other operator within the organization also listed on the scorecard? It is all a numbers game.
These competing priorities lead to these next two things I’ve learned.
2. Unsafe Acts
Unsafe acts usually begin with the best intentions in mind, but all too often lead to some of the very worst injuries we see. Let me give you a few examples:
- Dropping food or paper on the floor and not immediately picking it up to avoid someone slipping or falling
- Standing on chair rather than taking the time to get the appropriate size ladder for the task at hand.
- How many times have you seen an employee in a restaurant trying to handle the task of removing a trash bag that exceeded its capacity limits two hours earlier and has now become a daunting task even for two employees?
- Shuttling oil before it has cooled
- Failing to use the protective equipment provided and required by OSHA
- Or worst yet, simply not even having these safety solutions available
3. Unsafe Conditions
Often, in effort to keep up with the demands of a rapidly growing lunch crowd, no one takes the time to mop up water and fallen ice on the floor as customers utilize the self-service drink station. Here are a few others:
- Leaking water lines, ice machines, bathroom sinks, toilets, drink stations, etc.
- Cracked or missing floor tiles, broken shelving and damaged cabinets or shelving revealing sharp edges, ceiling tiles, etc.
- Unsafe use of extension cords, outlets without covers, frayed wiring, overloading of circuits etc.
- Sidewalks and parking lots that need patching or striping
4. Second Level Management
Nearly every general manager works 6 days a week and normally 8-10 hours a day. Those hours do not even include all the special trips into the restaurant to help with an incident or the numerous phone calls they receive when they are not at work from one of their second level management team. Even with that kind of commitment to the restaurant, the location is still being managed by an assistant manager, shift manager or lead employee. Obviously, most of the time this is the least trained, least tenured, and least experienced of the restaurant leadership team. To compound that problem they are typically left to work with the least trained, least experienced and least tenured employees. And, to reiterate the point about the perfect storm it is often that some of the highest transaction shifts take place within this time frame.
It’s during many of these peak revenue hours that safety takes a backseat for the need for speed. It’s within these crisis moments that decisions get made that often lead to employee injuries!
5. The Search for Excellence
The steps we have to take to prevent these crisis moments are successfully followed in many of our restaurants every day. Here is what I have learned…
It all starts with the general manager! Their pursuit of excellence is what drives their success!
Let me clarify that statement by saying often in our industry a new restaurant general manager is promoted or hired to replace the previous GM. In most situations that GM has failed to meet the company’s goals and a need to replace them has occurred. New GMs mostly start with a team they inherited rather than a team that was hand-picked by them.
All of this can be overcome, however, by simply adhering to the rule that “No task is so important that it cannot be done safely”. Instilling a culture, mindset, a belief that we do not want anyone to jeopardize their safety or the safety of fellow employees to get a task done quickly.
This is the culture that was started by the General Manager and is now the standard that everyone seeks to achieve in every task they do.
This includes ensuring that the proper safety tools are clean and available to everyone and equipment and the building are always maintained properly to prevent a possible hazard.
When everyone in the restaurant is working together and watching out for each other, the equipment is in proper working order, the floors, sidewalks, and driveways are clean and clear of hazards. These procedures and the reinforcement for these standards are not only communicated but inspected for by leadership, this is the point where operational excellence thrives and very few injuries ever occur.
Check out Mike Keeler’s post on, Leaning on Innovation in the Safety Industry here.
Mike Keeler, safety industry expert, has served as Head of Safety at Bloomin Brands, Inc, Global Safety Senior Leader at YUM! Brands, Inc. as well as Director of Security at Little Caesars Enterprises. He currently serves as CrewSafe’s POMM Partner of Brand Protection Strategies. For more information, please contact the CrewSafe team.